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wine in miniature

by Tom Cannavan, 08/10

There are increasing numbers of 'single-serve' wines on the shelves of supermarkets. These little 18.7cl or 25cl bottles - the equivalent of one and a half or two small glasses - seem to have multiplied rapidly, presumably being targeted at people who only drink wine very occasionally, or for picnic and other al fresco convenience. I managed to round up a selection of 15 of them to see what the quality was like. Most are also available in full 75cl sizes, and these small formats tend to be priced at around £1.50 - £2.00 per bottle.     small wine bottles

I found the level of faults in these wines to by higher than I would ever expect from full-sized bottles, particularly faults with oxidation and with sulphur. I am certain these bottles are meant for immediate consumption and I would always err on the side of caution and choose the youngest vintages available, as some of these examples were pretty lifeless.

Another word of warning is on price: a wine like Sainsbury's Australian Shiraz is a decent drop, but at £1.64 for 18.7cls, that works out at a little over £6.50 for the equivalent of a standard 75cl bottle. However, there are also standard bottles on Sainsbury's shelves at just £3.99. This was echoed in other retailers.

My conclusion is that these mini-bottles do not represent good value and do not do much to inspire the wine drinker with their contents. However, for a variety of factors people may find them convenient to buy and even amongst this rather poor sample set, there are one or two decent wines that I could just about recommend - in a small way.

A little white

Marks & Spencer, Garganega Pinot Grigio 2009, Italy
Screwcap, 12%, 25cl, IGT Veneto. In a 'PET' plastic bottle which is 85% lighter than glass - and shatterproof if taking on picnics, etc - this Veneto white fuses apple and lemon fruit with a hint of nutty, oatmeal character. On the palate it is fresh and clean, with a summery brightness and enough lemon and lime tang and acidity to make it attractive to drink on its own or with fish and seafood. 84/100.

La Gioiosa, Pinot Grigio 2009, Italy
Screwcap, 12%, 18.7cl, IGT Veneto. There's a whiff of wet nappy here (almost certainly a sulphur fault) and a very non-descript palate. Oh dear. 71/100. Sainsbury's

La Gioiosa, Bianco 'Cuore Italia', Italy
Screwcap, 11%, 18.7cl, Vino da Tavola. An unspecified blend that is very neutral on the nose, again a little bit of sulphur intruding, but the fruit much more pleasantly bright and juicy than the Pinot Grigio. Inoffensive but undistinguished. 80/100, Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2009
Screwcap, 12%, 18.7cl, IGT Veneto. From the giant CAVIT co-operative in Trentino this is cleaner with more obvious fruit of pear and apple, with a little melon skin note. On the palate fruity with perhaps just a touch of residual sugar to sweeten up the finish. 81/100.

Blason de Bourgogne, Chardonnay 2008, France
Screwcap, 12.5%, 18.7cl, Burgundy. This Burgundy from a good Co-operative cellar is a touch cheesy on the nose, with a slightly volatile and rancid note that is not at all pleasant. On the palate it is lemony and dry, but has very little character. Not a great bottle this, and might not be representative - at least I hope not from this normally reliable producer. 75/100. Sainsbury's

Tesco, 'Light Choices' California Chardonnay, USA
Screwcap, 8%, 18.7cl. Clean, bright, authentic Chardonnay fruit showing apple, melon and gentle nuttiness on the nose, a hint of vanilla in the background. The palate is perhaps a touch sweeter than I'd like ideally, but the flavours are there and this shows a little more tang and vibrancy than the Merlot in the same range. In fact, not a bad effort for an alcohol-reduced white. 83/100. Tesco.

Fern Bay, East Coast Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
Screwcap, 13.5%, 18.7cl. A rather lacklustre nose has none of Marlborough's fireworks and indeed not much aromas at all save for some lemon and hints of melon. On the palate this is fairly neutral too, and those looking for a hit of kiwi Sauvignon zest and pungency will be sorely disappointed. 82/100. Tesco

A little rosé

Las Falleras, Rosé 2009, Spain
Screwcap, 12%, 25cl, Utiel-Requena. In a 'PET' plastic bottle this is made from the local grape Bobal and has a bold cherryish colour and nose of crisp red berry fruits, with raspberry and a hint of pomegranate. On the palate this is fairly dry and deliciously drinkable, with that strawberry and raspberry fruit backed up with refreshing orangy acidity. 84/100, Marks & Spencer

A little red

Marks & Spencer, Beaujolais 2009, France
Screwcap, 12.5%, 25cl. In a PET plastic bottle, this Beaujolais from Paul Sapin comes from a terrific vintage and pours a vivid if palish purple colour. The nose is tight and delicate, with floral and rose-hip nuances, tight cherry fruit and a touch of watercolour paintbox. Juicy and sappy on the palate, this is dry, delicious and lip-smacking stuff. 86/100, Marks & Spencer

Blason de Bourgogne, Pinot Noir 2008, France
Screwcap, 12%, 18.7cl, Burgundy. This red Burgundy is very pale in colour with touches of brick to the colour. It has a developed nose too, suggesting this may be a little too advanced, with sweet earthy tones but the fruit definitely lacking. It could just be this bottle of course. 77/100. Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's, Côtes du Rhône 2008, France
Screwcap, 12.5%, 18.7cl. The nose is fairly neutral, though some soft brackeny notes, a little bramble fruit and some spice are at least suggested with some vigorous swirling. This too seems to lack a little fruit on the palate, with a lean, chewy character and just enough savoury berry fruit to make it appetising enough, the finish showing more spice than fruit. 82/100.

La Gioiosa, Rosso 'Cuore Italia' 2008, Italy
Screwcap, 11%, 18.7cl, Vino da Tavola. Cherry fruit and a touch of herbal, slightly grassy and underripe quality in this non-vintage wine, but not unappealing. On the palate this makes for soft and palatable drinking, with that slightly medicinal underripness still present, but some fruit and a decent, lightly spicy finish. 82/100. Sainsbury's

Tesco, 'Light Choices' California Merlot, USA
Screwcap, 8%, 18.7cl. Aimed at the diet conscious with '92 calories per bottle' emblazoned across the front, this blackcurranty Merlot does taste a little like a blackcurrant cordial, with very little by way of tannins or acidity to disrupt the gently fruity flavours. It is pretty dry though, and certainly easy to drink. 81/100.

Alta Mira, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Chile
Screwcap, 13.5%, 25cl, Central Valleys. In a PET plastic bottle, this Chilean Cabernet has a bold, punchy nose with vibrant black fruit and a herbal streak giving a little menthol character. On the palate that plump black fruit comes through nicely, with smooth, rich blackberry flavours and a nice suggestion of chocolaty depth. Long and quite spicy in the finish, a very nice little red for robust foods and pastas. 85/100, Marks & Spencer

Sainsbury's, Australian Shiraz, Australia
Screwcap, 13.5%, 18.7cl, Southeast Australia. A non-vintage wine with spice, eucalyptus and black fruit on the nose, and a nicely authentic feel. On the palate this is sweet-fruited and mouth-filling, with juicy black berry flavours and a touches of plum and vanilla. Spice again in the finish of this commercial and attractive Shiraz. 84/100.